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Polygamy: Polyandry, polygyny, group marriage


I've been wanting to bring up this topic for a while, but I have been shy about negative responses.

This information may be dated, but ten countries allow same-sex marriage, as do a growing number of American states. Australia recognizes same-sex marriage if the union was established before one partner changed genders.

The American states are evenly split on allowing first cousins to marry. Marriage between cousins is legal in many countries, and may account for ten to twenty percent of all marriages worldwide.

About fifty countries sanction polygamy. Australia and the UK recognize plural marriages performed elsewhere. Between American states, polygamy varies from a felony to a misdemeanor.

I grew up in a country in which polygyny was legal. Marriage laws were strict, though. My parents had to marry in an American air base in another country, because they weren't citizens.

Men were allowed to have up to four wives, if they were citizens and Moslems. However, none of my native friends came from polygynous families. I only once visited a polygynous family. The husband was a successful businessman.

My mother explained the legality of having more than one wife. The law required wives to be treated fairly. There was no "favorite" wife. Each was entitled to equal attention and equal support. If one wife got a diamond, the other wife got a diamond. if one wife got a house, the other wife got a house. If one wife got a car, the other wife got a car. And since women were not allowed to drive, each wife required a chauffer. Of course, each wife was capable of having children. So the legal right to have multiple wives was like the legal right to buy a private jet and fly to Tahiti. A man was limited by his means.

In the U.S., cases of bigamy occasionally make the news. In "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith," author Jon Krakauer mentioned a suburb dominated by fundamentalist LDS families consisting of mulitple wives. Islamic immigrants may practice polygyny in secret. More commonly, though, American men of all ethnic backgrounds father children by multiple women, regardless of marital status, and let the state pick up the tab.

I'm not suggesting we line people up for group marriage licenses. But imagine if a married man abandoned his wife, lived with his girlfriend for years, and suddenly found himself legally married to two women? What if an African refugee, who lost his farm and business to conflict, were permitted to enter the U.S with both of his lawfully recognized wives?


Honestly I'm completely open towards poly-relationships. As long as everybody involved are consenting adults.

To me this involved that each wife get a long with the other(s). They don't have to be BFF, but if they can't stand each other life might be... tricky... (even if they live separately I still think this is important.)

As for children, especially in those cases in which all wives live together, I think it's important to have some guidelines regarding their upbringing. For example; can you discipline another wife's children? Personally I think it's important that everybody can discipline each child equally; otherwise a wife might see another wife's child do something bad, go get his/her mother, and when they return the child in question is behaving like a true angel. Who should the child's mother trust? Her co-wife, whom she hopefully gets along with just fine, or her child?

I also think it's important that children are treated equally (just like the wives), tbh I don't think the children even need to focus who each of their mothers are; they should go "These are my siblings", not "These are my siblings, and these are my half-siblings" about the other children.


I agree that in polygamy, as in monogamy, it's critical that families get along and agree on discipline. For example, in an extended monogamous family, kids may have two sets of grandparents and multiple aunts and uncles. I personally grew up with aunts and uncles on both sides, and a total of twelve cousins, but discipline was pretty consistent.

In the home I mentioned visiting, both wives and the husband lived in the same house. But wives' families do live in separate houses or apartments. In the original nomadic civilizations, living quarters were probably tight.

Speaking of nomadic life, having more than one wife was a matter of survival to desert tribes. With no police force, no armies and no hospitals, many sons were needed to defend the camps and herds. Women who risked their lives with every childbirth would at least know that someone else would raise their children. Sisters who married the same husband would also be together for life.

Today it's more of an option, as women are allowed to earn degrees, enter professions and inherit property. As the status of women improves, they tend to place less urgency on having large families.

Another downside to polygamy: Multiple spouses mean multiple in-laws. King Solomon supposedly married many women in order to seal alliances with their fathers. Many of those marriages may not have been consumated. But imagine having to deal with all of the grandparents of your twenty or so children!

For this reason, I have my doubts that legalizing polygamy in the U.S. will result in queues of women pushing carts and herding armies of children through the checkout at Costco, with one husband picking up the whole tab. It might protect families of immigrants and refugees. It would also place more legal jeopardy on deadbeat parents and adulterous spouses, to find themselves in a common-law multiple marriage.

Group marriage would really be a legal complication. This would involve three or more people being married to each other, not just one person having multiple husbands or wives.


Even though there might have been happy polygynous marriages in imperial China, most probably were not (I don't know a single Chinese novel, which tells of a happy polygynous marriage, but a lot about tragic ones). It might been the same with Korea and Japan, since they abolished it, too.

But in these countries, the wives weren't equal, they were put into a hierarchical order (First wife, second wife, first concubine etc.), which meant, they had different legal statuses (or better, customary rights).

Well, if I had several husbands, why should I be supposed to treat them equally? Why should it be improper of me, to, let's say, bequeath one with more than the others, since I like that particular man the most?

I guess, the problem most people have with polygamous marriages is, that from a certain number of spouses on, you don't get the impression of a conscientious equal relationship but of one person (most times a man) indulging in a variety of partners.
Rich people, these days, don't need several spouses to secure progeny as they used to.


... if I had several husbands, why should I be supposed to treat them equally? Why should it be improper of me, to, let's say, bequeath one with more than the others, since I like that particular man the most?...

I suppose you could, but I have my doubts that there will be peace in the household. In nuclear families, what good comes of favoring one child over others, or one parent over another?

In the three-mating situations in Elfquest, I don't see favoritism. Dewshine rejoices that Tyleet will have Scouter's baby. Pike refers to both Krim and Skot as "my family." When Cutter recognizes Leetah, Skywise points out that he has a "foul disposition and the manners of a Troll", suggesting that Cutter ought to treat her with more respect. In the disappearance of the Palace, Cutter misses Skywise and Leetah equally.


Of course, parents should not favour one child over another, but I think they do. I'm not saying the other child/children aren't loved, but they are a bit less. And the jealousy among siblings, for the unequal distribution of parental attention, is well known. There are enough books and films about this conflicts. (By thus, I don't rule out that there are any parents, or polygamous constellation, where love is shared equally)

Also, I don't think that to quote the ideal presentation of a three-mating (the EQ-triples) proves that they work.


Even in EQ it's pointed out that three-matings are not the rule. and it is madeclear that each of the partners must like the others VERY MUCH.

What seems to be commen through all elfin tribes is that they tend to share - some more, some less. They lack jealousy to a far extend (tho they are not completely unfamiliar to that feeling).

I think that the very long lifespan and sending abilities are reasons that elves get along so well with it. Humans have neither to one nor the other.

But that's rather off topic, I guess.

Allowing polygamy in civil rights ... I have never really thought about it, so I have no answers. just questions:
... where is the basic difference to a man/woman having several marriages and divorces "in row", and having children with with each partner?
... where is the differences to a man/woman keeping sevaral partnes for at the same time, may be for "different opportunities"?
... where is the difference of a man/womanhaving love affairs or even long-lasting partnerships besides the married partner?

And ... when we are talking about Polygamy in our time and in western culture - what das that actually mean?

Traditionally it has been a man being allowed to have more than one wife.
Now it must include the right of a woman having more than one husband, right?

Husband 1 is taking a second wife ... fine. His wife 1 is taking another husband 2 ... fine.
Makes four.
Wife 2 falls in love with another man and marries him, too ... and he already has a wife.
Husband 2 marries a woman he fell in love with ... or perhaps a man ...

Does anyone think that will become a bit confusing? Wink Okay, I'm exaggarating!

The other variation would be that both original partners have to marry the new man/woman (or couple) with equal rights and duties. And all of them have to agree the same way when another one is supposed to join in.

Can't help it - I have aproblem to get Polygamy (no matter in which variation), gender equality (right word?) and our leagal rights system together. My imagination is too limited.

How far it should be accepteted when a fugitive or immigrant man with two legal wives should be accepted as a family ... that's a matter of humanity. The "HOW" to make it function within our legal system is a job for jurists.


From Wikipedia: "Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners. When a man is married to more than one wife at a time, the relationship is called polygyny, and there is no marriage bond between the wives; and when a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, it is called polyandry, and there is no marriage bond between the husbands. If a marriage includes multiple husbands and wives, it can be called group marriage."

In America, laws involving marriage and family vary somewhat from state to state, so it's hard to make any generalizations about marriage and divorce status.

If a man has a series of marriages and divorces, his relationship to his ex-wives and children may vary according to each divorce and custody settlement. He may be required, for example, to pay alimony to one or more ex-wives. He may have sole or joint custody of any one child, or merely visitation rights, or no contact at all. But each of those marriages has been terminated. (This can apply as well to a woman with a series of ex-husbands.)

When a married man or woman is having a long-term affair with a third person, that third person has no legal relationship to their married lover. The relationship can end up in court, though. A man who is cheating on his wife, for example, may be sued for divorce by his wife. In some states, the wife may also sue the mistress for "alienation of affections." If the mistress is married as well, her husband may sue the first man for loss of affections, as well as suing his wife for divorce. If the adulterous man fathers a child by his mistress, he furthermore risks having to pay child support through the state. It can get really, really messy.

If a man or woman has a series of lovers, or multiple lovers at the same time, with no legal bond between them, they are still single. In some states, a couple who live together for a certain number of years, or who use each other's names in legal documents, may end up with a "common law" marriage. I only hear about this in "palimony" suits. This is a tabloid journalism term for a case in which a common-law partner sues for divorce.

You are right in saying that freedom of each spouse to marry multiple spouses will become confusing, when a man has multiple wives, and one of his wives has multiple husbands. I have my doubts that many Americans would want to get into this kind of domestic tangle.

If polygamy were legal, what if a man were to leave his wife, without ever divorcing her, and lived with his girlfriend for seven years? Suppose the state declared that he was legally married to both women? It might make husbands and wives think twice about getting into this type of situation. It would also put the girlfriend on an equal footing with the first wife.

Suppose a man came to New York or Massachusetts with his two wives, and his children by both marriages. At the same time, a gay couple arrived with their children, and a marriage document from their country of origin? The state would recognize the marriage of the gay couple, and their joint custody of their children. But the man with two wives would be told that one of his wives was his mistress, and that half of his children were illegitimate.


Reading an excellent book:



Lately I have been reading opponents of legalizing same-sex unions, saying it would open the door to polygamous unions. I'm not sure that would be a bad thing.


to be honest, Trollbabe... I'm inclined to agree with you.

Of course, I'm one of those odd humans who seems to have no real issues with jealousy. But as stated above by another poster, my only caveat is that all participants are consenting adults.


The "consenting adults" clause is all I care about.

I personally identify as polyflexible...a special snowflake term I made up. ;) I just mean that...I can operate as well in a monogamous relationship as in a polyamorous one. Many I've encountered are strictly monogamous or polyamorous. I would prefer a closed triad or a quad, but let's face it; I'm super gay, and there are only so many polyamorous lesbians out there. So if I can find ONE to spend my life with, I will be bueno. There's a lesbian "throuple" (their term, not mine!) that got married recently...I mean, they're not all legally married, but they went through so much paperwork to make sure that all three of them are bound as equally as possible, with the same rights. And now one of them is pregnant. They won the poly jackpot, I swear. *laughs*

Last I heard of them was actually in an article that is using their experience to justify why legalizing same-sex marriage is a super slippery slope that's leading to polygamy, and probably to man-on-dog marriage and woman-on-building marriage and child marriage and every other frickin' exaggerated example they can come up with...honestly, I was rolling my eyes so hard that I had to close the article.

I dunno if anyone here is familiar with the Sister Wives show on TLC, but due to just the fear of being prosecuted for everyone living together (Utah had an anti-cohabitation law that made it easier to prosecute polygamists), they moved to Nevada. Bigamy (being married to multiple people at the same time) is still illegal, but the cohabitation part of the law was removed. So...tiny win.


I don't watch TV, but I read about the Darger family (three wives, one husband.)

The funny thing is, to this day, when I talk about polygamy, the first thing people tend to bring up is consent. With gay couples, they seem to assume there's consent.


I think that's because polygamy, and certainly the actual word "polygamy," is still strongly associated with Morman cults, where consent isn't a factor. That's a big part of the reason the poly community is shifting to using "polyamory" instead.




I know it's a lot of text so in short:

-More than one partner = ok
-Lying about that = hell no
-Not accepting the partner to do the same = you should be alone for the rest of your life
-Marriage = whatever, I don't need papers to prove my love


Couldn't care less about the paper in terms of...feeling like who I love is legit, or needing it as a form of proof...I want the legal protections. Inheritance, hospital visits, power of attorney, being recognized as a parent. All that stuff can be arranged, but it would be a hell of a lot easier to just get married.

It's pretty fab to be gay right now in America...same-sex marriage rights for all is really just a matter of time. Extending those rights to groups...that's gonna be more complicated.


It's a damn shame people aren't as free as they should be...


Actually, a lot of people in the industrial world can be as free as they want to be.

1. Assuming you're not disabled or incarcerated, you should be able to raise one or two thousand American dollars in the space of a year. Then you need to get a passport, visa, inoculations and a plane ticket.

2. Find a place on the planet that affords complete freedom. Fly there, as long as there are no physical or diplomatic barriers between where you are, and where you want to go. If there's no airport where you are headed, get off the plane, and continue on by hiring some kind of local transit, or by foot. You might even get to your destination with an inflatable raft and a paddle.

3. Once you reach the place where you are free from the constraints of your present-day situation, enjoy your stay. The cost of living may be considerably lower, if you don't have to pay taxes to support a standing military, a police force, highways, medical conveniences, telecommunications, and such utilities as sanitary water. You may be completely alone for days, weeks or months. But if you aren't, and in the case of complete anarchy, you may want to arm yourself and build a bunker.

4. Hunt, howl, and live free!


*lifts eyebrow* I don't think I'm interested in that kind of freedom...everyone's definition of freedom may be a little different. While, sure, me and my hypothetical triad or quad could...find some hypothetical place with the freedoms you describe, we'd probably live a lot shorter without sanitary water and medical conveniences, and we'd probably eventually get pretty lonely, since this place is probably quite isolated. That wouldn't be freedom for me, it'd be hell.


If you know that place Trollbabe I'd be happy to know where it is if I can be reassured that no living soul will come there to chase me away claiming it for their own. I at least wouldn't be wakened an hour before I have to get up (because one must work) by some dude cleaning the parking-lot...


Was thinking of deserts, wildernesses and Gilligan-type islands. I was born and raised on the edge of the Rub' al Khali (ROOB al KAH lee), a place to which I sometimes retreat in my imagination.


I am currently writing a story that touches on this subject. One of the points that I make is "Love is much more than just sex" and that the love of a parent can go beyond the ties of blood.


@Trollbabe I dream of a tropical kind of forest. When I was on (my first and last since) holiday in Spain about 12 years ago this Peruvian artist was working on paintings. These guys make the most beautiful paintings with all kind of materials so I bought one and the waterfalls in it have me hooked so I've got my mental safe-haven ;)


@Mkal good luck with the story! Seems a serious task...


Tam said: I think that's because polygamy, and certainly the actual word "polygamy," is still strongly associated with Morman cults, where consent isn't a factor. That's a big part of the reason the poly community is shifting to using "polyamory" instead.

Very much this^. I identify as Polyamorous as it means "loving" more than "ownership", which is how I feel and how we organize our relationships. And it is possible to pull off, it just require lots and lots of communication. My wife and I have been together for 22 years and married for 4, we got a male partner 14 years ago with the idea of starting a family (but that fell through for a variety of reasons), and we joined another woman to our group 5 years ago. We are all committed to each other and love each other equally and share everything. It might look from the outside like one of those "lucky" guys who has all these girls but our relationship is very egalitarian. We are all artists and writers and makers of various types, the woman we recently added is also a blackbelt so I dare anyone to say we push her around or anything. The guy does a lot of the cooking because he is good at it and likes it, we divide up chores by aptitude and not silly gender stereotypes. My wife and I are married because the other two said we should when gay marriage was made legal, because we had been together for so long (and also as a bit of an FU to my religious father who never gave us an ounce of credit even though we've been together longer than both my siblings have been with their partners Combined), and the other two married at about the same time so that we could enjoy at least some of the benefits of legal recognition. But I wish very much that we could All be married to each other, that the law would recognize that we are All committed just as devotedly to each other. I don't think the law has any business mucking about with religion (other than protecting the rest of us from zealots who want to control everything), marriage should be a legal contract and nothing more and if the people getting married want some sort of ceremony that's just icing and has no legal bearing on anything. If they would just be sensible and have gender-neutral terminology (like spouse a,b,c... etc) on the forms it could work. No implied hierarchy, just an affidavit of consent and being of legal age without to much consanguinity. And the ability of spouses to divorce from the group if they are unhappy (just like any marriage except that one person leaving doesn't have to dissolve the entire marriage if the others are happy together).


Here in Ghent we have a saying "kijkt in u eigen bord" meaning look at your own plate. I don't understand (as a straight monogamous woman without a relationship but a lot of common sense) why the hell some think they have anything to say about how and who one should love or even marry.
As long as it's not a child that is being abused I don't see why any laws should dictate who or how one should love.
It seems that governments want to play "God" obligating all its "sheep" to be in its image. If a government does something its sheep can't do anything but reflect...